Aortic aneurysm

Early detection saves lives

Abnormal dilations of the blood vessels, aneurysms in jargon, can go unnoticed and without discomfort for a long time. Aneurysms primarily affect males over 60. Younger patients under 50, however, can also be found with aortic aneurysms.

The treatment of aneurysms has been a specialised area of Schoen Clinic for years. The individual teams consist of experienced surgeons as well as specially-trained nurses and therapists. In this way, we offer you comprehensive expertise.

Causes & symptoms

What is an aortic aneurysm?

An aneurysm is the expansion of an artery. Such an aneurysm most frequently occurs at the aorta. This main artery of our body begins at the heart’s aortic valve. Then it first runs curved in the upper ribcage to the rear, then lies on the spine, pulls down in front of the spine, passes through the diaphragm and then divides into the two pelvic arteries approximately at navel level. The aorta transports the oxygen-rich blood to the head, the arms, the organs of the abdomen and finally through the two pelvic arteries to the legs.

Aneurysmal expansions of the main artery affect 95% of the section in the abdomen. An abdominal aortic aneurysm is thus a bulge of the wall of the abdominal artery.

Minor expansions of the abdominal artery initially do not pose any health problems. However, a regular annual examination with ultrasound is necessary.

With increasing diameter, however, aneurysms can lead to life-threatening acute internal bleeding. A burst abdominal aortic aneurysm is a life-threatening emergency, which requires immediate attention.

Causes: How an aortic aneurysm occurs

The transverse diameter of the main artery is usually 1.5 to 2 cm. In the event of an aneurysm, the expansion exceeds this age-corresponding dimension. Atherosclerosis is the reason for this in 95 per cent of cases. This is a wear-induced vascular wall disease, which can lead to deposits, calcifications, constrictions and ultimately occlusions. In some cases, however, there is a weakening of the arterial wall and therefore a general expansion, which is an aneurysm. The risk factors of atherosclerosis are primarily smoking, high blood pressure and increased blood lipids.

Very rare causes of an aortic aneurysm are injuries, inflammation or congenital connective tissue disorders, which change the structure of the vascular walls. 

In addition, a genetic component (inheritance) has been proven. Blood relatives of aneurysm carriers should therefore also undergo an ultrasound examination.

Symptoms: What symptoms occur?

Most abdominal aortic aneurysms are initially small and do not cause any complaints. 

If the aneurysm gets larger, then the following, sometimes very unspecific symptoms can gradually appear:

  • Increased pulsation in the upper abdomen 
  • In slim patients: a visible or palpable pulsing swelling above the navel, especially when lying down. A physician often first notices this swelling during a routine physical examination. About 30 per cent of abdominal aortic aneurysms are discovered this way.
  • Abdomen or especially back pain. These aneurysms are typically discovered when clarifying other pain through magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography or ultrasound.
  • Abdominal pain or a muscular defence of the abdominal wall. This may indicate an acute, rapid growth of the abdominal aortic aneurysm and predict an impending rupture of the aorta.
  • In the event of an acute aorta rupture: massive life-threatening pain and shock

Diagnostics

Diagnosis: detecting an aortic aneurysm at an early stage

It may already be too late when the pain first occurs. That is why we recommend men and women aged 60 or older to have their main arteries examined once by their general practitioner, internist or angiologist with ultrasound. The earlier an aortic aneurysm is detected, the more often an appropriate treatment can be initiated in order to avoid complications.

At Schoen Clinic, we offer you an outpatient, vascular surgery special consultation. Supplementary examinations and a detailed discussion for a specific consultation take place here.